‘Spread Your Wings’ – Why small village schools need The Songwriting Charity too.

We are St Peter’s C E Primary in Wymondham, Leicestershire – a small village school with only 40 pupils. A while ago we were fortunate enough to get to work with Ben O’Sullivan from The Songwriting Charity. You could be forgiven for thinking ‘What has the Songwriting Charity got to do with us? I thought they just visited big schools with big challenges’…and you might even be wondering how such a small school could afford a workshop programme without any local authority help or support from a grant. Let me answer both of these questions…and while I do, tell you just how inspirational and long lasting the whole experience is.

We have a great school, our teachers and pupils are happy, our latest Ofsted report was ‘Good’, we have no bullying or other such challenges to speak of, and our music provision is well established. But, we wanted to do something different, something innovative and inclusive of the whole school, something that would bring our village community together in celebration of our school and our amazing pupils. An opportunity to work with The Songwriting Charity presented itself and we grabbed it with both hands.

Ben O’Sullivan visited us and ran workshops with all the children over the course of one day. He worked with whole class groups, right down to individuals – harnessing their creativity and guiding them through the process of writing a song about our school, a song that they wanted to write…their words, not his, their melodies, not his – their school song!

Everyone was included and everyone contributed – from the reception class right through to Year 6. And what is amazing, is that those children who you would least expect to participate, were the ones who really shone. There really was an instant buzz around the school – with children singing the chorus over and over in groups around the playground…and I think maybe some of the teachers too!

So, how did we afford it? With Ben O’Sullivan’s help, we produced a DVD and CD of the song, the production costs being covered by a few generous local companies in return for their logo’s being placed on the DVD sleeve artwork. We then promoted and put on a school concert in our village hall with the children performing songs from their music classes. The grand finale was the official launch of the DVD, which was shown to all on a large screen, with the children singing along in the audience. It was a hugely emotional evening and a huge success. After the concert, one parent simply came up to me, and with tears in her eyes gave me a big hug and simply said “Thank you, thank you so much”. Our thanks are to Ben and The Songwriting Charity – for helping us show our community what an inspiration our pupils are.

The event was a sell-out and easily raised enough money to cover the costs of the workshop and the DVD sales, marketed as ‘the must have purchase of the year’ continue to generate funds for our school.

Was it worth it? Absolutely, one hundred percent YES! The children produced a truly inspirational piece of work that has created a long lasting legacy for the whole community, they have grown in confidence, opened their (and our) eyes to new & exciting opportunities, and given the whole school something to be really proud of. From a curriculum standpoint – let’s just say it ticked an awful lot of boxes! It was an incredible learning experience for all of us.

Would we recommend it to others? In a heartbeat.

By Mrs Anne Boyce – Headteacher, St Peter’s C E Primary School.

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